Did internalised homophobia spark Orlando nightclub attack?

BBC News, Washington
By Jasmine Taylor-Coleman
June 15, 2016

Reports that Orlando gunman Omar Mateen had been a regular at the gay nightclub he attacked and used gay dating apps have led to speculation that he was motivated by internalised homophobia. But what is it, and could it have anything to do with the worst shooting in recent US history?

Investigators are still trying to establish what led a 29-year-old security guard from Florida to murder 49 people and injure dozens more as they partied in popular gay nightclub Pulse.

They are examining indications Mateen was inspired by radical Islamism, following revelations that he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and the FBI had investigated him twice previously for terror links.

Mateen's father also suggested his son had harboured strong anti-gay views, fuelling many people's belief that the attack was motivated by violent homophobia.

But as more information emerges about the killer's history, a more complicated picture is developing. Witnesses said Mateen had visited the Pulse club as a guest several times over the past three years and interacted with men on gay dating apps. His ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, told CNN it was possible he had hidden feelings about being gay.

It has led experts to question whether the gunman was spurred on - at least in part - by a powerful self-loathing about his own sexuality. Could he have been driven to hate and hurt others because he hated himself?


"It's a really simple concept unfortunately," says Ilan Meyer, a senior scholar for public policy and sexual orientation law at the University of California, Los Angeles. "All members of society are taught about conventions. We learn about stigma and prejudices about certain groups from a very young age.

"So when a person begins to recognise that he or she is gay or lesbian, there is already that negativity."

Messages about homosexuality can come from multiple places, including family, school and the media, experts say.

Intolerance can be covertly communicated, perhaps through slurs or pejorative statements such as "that's so gay", or overtly, such as bullying or anti-gay teachings in religions that do not accept LGBT rights.

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